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Yemen Briefing on the Final Stages of the National Dialogue

Friday afternoon (27 September), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen. The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and the Foreign Minister of Yemen, Dr. Abu-Bakr Al-Qirbi, are expected to brief the Council as well. The Foreign Minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, is expected to preside over the meeting and other Council members are also expected to be represented at a high-level. Although no Council action is planned at this stage, it seems that the UK, the penholder on Yemen, would like to have a presidential statement after the completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in the coming weeks.

Benomar is expected to brief the Council on his support to the NDC, which was set to conclude on 18 September but has been extended for a few weeks. Council members might want to hear about the challenges in reaching an agreement on two working groups tackling issues that divide the NDC (the southern issue and the form of government) and one, covering the Sa’ada issue,(Sa’ada) on which a set of solutions was only agreed recently. Benomar is also expected to explain the anticipated role for the UN in the different stages of the transition process (which includes the final plenary session, the drafting of the constitution, a referendum later in the year and general elections in February 2014).

Benomar is also likely to discuss the large scale humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a country of over 25 million where 13 million people do not have access to clean water or adequate sanitation, 6.4 million people lack access to basic health care and 1.2 million vulnerable and conflict-affected children lack access to quality education. Insecurity and the absence of state authority in many regions are hindering the provision of humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations, such as IDPs, returnees and refugees from the Horn of Africa. (Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Ertharin Cousin, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, travelled to Yemen in early September).

Al-Qirbi is expected to brief the Council on the work of the NDC and the extension of its work, as well as how the recommendations resulting from the work of the NDC are going to feed into the constitutional-drafting process. He is likely to outline key decisions by the government in accompanying the transition process, such as the issuing on 21 August of a public apology to the people in the south, the east and the Houthis for the wars waged against them under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the initiative to restructure the armed and security forces. Along with Al-Zayani, he is also expected to brief the Council on the discussions of the 6th meeting of the Friends of Yemen, which took place on 25 September in New York, co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, the UK and Yemen.

Bi-monthly briefings by Benomar to the Council are normally followed by closed consultations. In this case, because Al-Zayani and Al-Qirbi, would not be able to attend the consultations, it was decided that the Council will only meet in public. Council members are likely to deliver statements that focus on the positive developments as opposed to highlighting concerns that could have been more frankly expressed in a closed meeting. Still some Council members may raise the importance of Yemen honouring as much as possible the timetable and benchmarks set out in the transition agreement. This would include, for example, the holding of general elections by February 2014.

Most Council members may touch upon the security situation and condemn recent attacks from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Council members might also commend the government’s efforts in restructuring the security forces.

It is expected that some Council members will focus on the important economic challenges the country is facing, including the youth bulge, the effect of recent attacks on electricity lines as well as oil and gas pipelines, and the lack of disbursement of aid pledges due to low state capacity. The impact of these factors on the humanitarian situation and the transition process were discussed in the recent Friends of Yemen meeting.

Except for some particular issues, Council members are unified when it comes to Yemen. They are aware that the current phase of the political transition in Yemen comes at a critical moment for other transition processes in the region and highlight the close cooperation with regional organisations, the constructive discussions within the Council and the cost-effective UN engagement.

Although some Council members might recall the Council’s readiness to consider measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter against spoilers of the transition process, no Council action is foreseen in the short term.

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